After the Debate, Another Chance to Put Their Spin on Things
ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Gov. Bill Richardson (N.M.) was sweating. Profusely.
More than an hour after the first Democratic debate of the 2008 presidential race concluded in this small town 45 minutes south of Columbia, Richardson was mobbed by reporters scribbling in notebooks and camera crews jostling for position.
He stood at the center of “Spin Alley” — a room given over to candidates and their chosen mouthpieces for hours of post-debate “analysis.” And Richardson was analyzing away.
“I came out as the most moderate candidate with the clearest position on Iraq,” Richardson insisted as he took a slug from a bottle of water. “I’m a different kind of Democrat.”
Richardson was working overtime — hence the sweat — to sell that message, a pitch he had struggled to make during the 90-minute debate, where he often looked uncomfortable on stage and failed to distinguish himself from the other “second-tier” candidates.
For Richardson, Spin Alley offered a second bite at the apple, a unique opportunity to change conventional wisdom before it hardened.
Other candidates saw different opportunities in the media orgy. Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), who was perhaps the least visible candidate during the debate — the result of a paucity of questions directed to him — not only appeared but also brought along Reps. John Larson (Conn.) and Xavier Becerra (Calif.) to plead his case.
In keeping with the spirit of Spin Alley, Larson recounted how his two seatmates during the debate, both South Carolinians, remarked afterward that Dodd had appeared the most “presidential” of all the candidates.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) clasped the hand of his statuesque, redheaded wife as he waded through the assembled press. Sen. Joe Biden (Del.), who drew kudos for his debate performance, flooded the room with aides, including his sister/senior campaign adviser, Valerie Biden Owens.
The big three candidates — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and former senator John Edwards (N.C.) — skipped the gathering altogether, calculating that no good could be gained by subjecting themselves to the more than 600 credentialed media people at the debate.
From left, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich chat up the media in “Spin Alley” after last week’s Democratic presidential debate.